Samantha must prove to Chase she's a competent, trustworthy professional. That the sultry seductress he knew was only a pretense, her misguided alter ego acting on a stupid dare.
To save her reputation, she has to make him believe the mind blowing kisses and undeniable connection they shared meant nothing.
The hard part will be convincing herself.
|Publisher:||The Wild Rose Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.57(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Sunshine in a clear summer sky was rare in downtown Detroit. Samantha Wells usually took time to acknowledge such gifts from Mother Nature, but this morning hardly noticed. Dressed in a nondescript beige suit, she blended with others who hurried along the sidewalk to waiting jobs. Most, like her, navigated familiar routes on auto pilot.
In four more blocks, she'd be at her office, Professional Security and Investigations. Could she slip back easily into PSI routines after being gone for three weeks? She wouldn't know for sure until she got there. No. Three weeks wasn't excessive for recovery from a gun shot wound. Tentative fingers touched the spot on her right side where a bullet took out a sizable chunk of flesh, and, by sheer luck, missed all vital organs.
Bob Anderson, her friend and boss, had urged her to take more time. She'd balked at that. I'm fine, she'd insisted. She was fine, she told herself, one hundred percent. Well, okay, maybe ninety something. The site was still a lot bruised and a little sore, but no one was perfect. She was a definite high end ninety, and would be at the top of her game soon, very soon.
Before she took that train of thought any further, the distinctive chords of her cell phone interrupted and she paused in the alcove of a building to take the call. Seeing a familiar number flash on the ID screen, she debated whether or not to answer. David Franks was one of the investigators who came with the agency when Bob bought it out the year before. The man had never impressed her. With limited people skills, his abilities in the field were worse. He'd been with her the day she was shot, with his gun.
She flipped the phone open and placed a necessary edge in her voice. "Samantha Wells."
"Yeah, fine. Why?"
"I don't know. You sound a little ..."
"Just keyed up to come back to work." No way would she allow this man the leeway to decide anything about her. "What's up?"
"You know you have a meeting this morning?"
"The one set for this morning." He had the gall to keep his words slow and distinct, as if she didn't understand him.
"Did Bob tell you to call me?"
She bristled at that. How dare he refer Bob as Chief. The term was reserved for subordinates when referring to commanding officers. He'd never worked with Bob at a police department the way she had. In fact, she doubted Franks ever hooked on at any police agency, a testament to his incompetence. And, if he insisted on using former titles, he should call her Lieutenant.
"You sure you're okay?"
That question didn't deserve an answer. "Are you in the office?"
"On my way in."
Of all people, she really didn't want to deal with him her first day back. "Then how do you know ... anything?"
"I know your next assignment is chaperone duty." Another of his personality flaws was his preference for making statements as opposed to asking questions.
"Bodyguard." She could make statements, too. If his intention was to goad her into self-doubt, he needed to try harder. And for the record, she was a security agent, not a babysitter.
"No. I'm sure I heard chaperone." The smug tone only added to her growing disgust. Not about the assignment — she trusted Bob and would take anything he asked her to — the disgust was for Franks.
"I called Jan at the front desk to check my messages." In perpetual suck-up mode, he always tried to give the impression of being a through and through company man. "Chief came up while I was on the phone with her. Seemed pretty excited. Told her to set up the conference room by ten o'clock and make sure you knew about it. Said he was sending you to Alaska."
Samantha moved the phone to her other ear as a city bus wheezed to a stop a few feet away.
"I wanted to warn you. Hate to see you blindsided on top of everything else."
Yeah, like he cared. The man bordered on delusional.
"On another note," he said, "some of us might go out for drinks tonight after work. Wanta come? I'll buy."
"I'll pass, thanks."
She closed her eyes before tightening her grip on the phone. This conversation was going nowhere. The confines of the doorway where she stood blocked what little fresh breeze was left drifting around the city. She needed to move on. So did David Franks.
"I never mix business with pleasure." She winced at her poor choice of words.
"You know what they say about all work. No play."
By now, if she'd been unfortunate enough to be talking to the jerk face to face, she'd have decked him. "That's me," she countered. "One extremely dull girl. Is there anything else?"
"Nope. Except you might want to consider getting a life. Loosen up. Maybe learn to flirt."
"Are you included in this meeting?"
"No, but, I thought ..."
"Thanks for the heads up." She snapped her phone shut, then shoved it into her pocket.
Teeth clenched, body tight, she didn't move for one full minute. All around her, the stop and go sounds of urban traffic — tires on pavement, brake squeals and skids — went on. Her forehead throbbed from a tension headache that snuck in while she was tied up talking to an idiot. Not even at the office and already her nerves were on edge.
True to form, Franks had moved beyond annoying and succeeded in pissing her off. Plus, his comment about her lack of social prowess hurt a little. So what if the mainstay of her current social life was the intramural high-school volleyball league where she refereed on Thursday nights? She managed to hold her own at an occasional girls' night out, thank you very much. Being reasonably attractive, she could go home with any number of barflies if she chose to. Which she didn't since she wanted more than the one night stands they offered. She'd had a fair share of more serious relationships in her forty-two years, just none lately.
Raising her wrist, she eyed her watch. Not quite eight-fifteen. She wasn't expected at the office until after nine-thirty. That was today. After that, her schedule could go all over the board. She touched her pounding forehead again and decided meeting or no meeting she'd take her time getting there.
Up ahead on the next corner, her favorite coffee shop, Café and Crumbs, provided a welcome diversion. Pausing in the entrance space between the door to the street and the one leading into the place, she almost changed her mind when she saw the length of the take-out line. The line to get into the restaurant section was even longer. Then, the inside door opened, releasing enough tempting aroma of coffee mixed with cinnamon and chocolate to hook her attention. For her favorite latte, she'd put up with the wait.
A rhythmic murmur and bustle drowned out further thought as she stepped into the muted frenzy of low-key conversations wrangling with shout-outs of orders ready for pick-up. She let her mind go blank listening to cappuccino machines hiss steam, dishes clatter into bus pans, then took her place in line. Up at the front end, a tall woman pulled a list out of her purse and began to recite an involved order to the waiting clerk.
Shifting her weight to the other foot, she reached up to massage away a persistent stiffness at the back of her neck.
Where does he come off saying I don't know how to flirt? The thought jumped out to fuel her growing irritation. I can flirt with the best of them if I want. I just don't.
It had been awhile since she'd experienced any real romance in her life — meaningful or otherwise — and she missed that. Not that she was foolish enough to expect anything long lasting. Love and family, she knew from first-hand experience, were grossly overrated.
When the neck massage failed to ease the ache between her shoulder blades, she arched her back to release unspent tension.
"Can't we move a little faster?" The grating male voice made a direct hit on her third nerve. Bam! the tension snapped back in place.
She closed her eyes and blew out an impatient breath. Were all men naturally born pond scum or was it a talent acquired with age?
Primed for a fight, she jerked her head around with no way to ID the offender. Just punch out the first available male. She had to smile at the thought, then her gaze settled on the man who stood directly behind her. Fury gave way to wide-eyed surprise; the angry retort died in her throat.
She hadn't counted on this.
The guy was absolutely gorgeous. And, every one of her all men are pond scum convictions vanished.
Here's your chance. Prove Franks wrong and have a little harmless fun in the process. The idea came out of nowhere, but she liked it. This was way too good to pass up.
While he looked the other way, she grabbed the opportunity to check him out. Handsome by anyone's standards — she completed a quick one-two inspection down his frame — the rest of the package wasn't bad either. Tall, a good head above her five foot seven inches, and neatly dressed in a charcoal gray suit, red pin stripe shirt and matching tie. Hunk wise, he had a lot going for him. The clothes fit well over broad shoulders and a sleek torso. His waist was trim, with sufficient bulk where the shirt came up to his chest to suggest he took care of himself. Nice shaped hips gave way to long legs; and thighs large enough to keep the slacks from hanging too loose. The suit was impeccably tailored, but he appeared uncomfortable in it. Or maybe he was just tired of standing in line. He seemed intent on studying the lunch menu written on an easel to his right.
From a side view, his features fit perfectly between an angled forehead and strong jaw. His hair was dark brown with the barest hint of silver. The distinctive coloring would be noticed only if someone was seriously looking at the man — like her — with unabashed interest.
A surge of heat sprinted from the tips of her toes to the top of her head, hitting all the important female spots in between.
Who said men are the only ones allowed to have sexual fantasies? She was in the middle of one right now with this guy as the main attraction. They'd just moved into a sexy, if not ambitious, position when he caught her staring. To her delight, he returned her blatant stare with one revealing considerable interest. His eyes, dark brown like his hair with their own silver flecks, glowed with something she couldn't quite discern. Approval? No, something more like appreciation. Definite appreciation of her.
"Nice," she said, then immediately clamped her mouth shut.
"Thank you, I think." His voice was deep as she'd expected. Deep and sexy. "Or did you mean the suit?"
His eyes held an air of surprised amusement. "Well then thank you for that, too. I like your suit as well." He made the quiet comment with a measure of respect.
If she were smart, she'd take advantage of the graceful out he'd just given her. Nice suit, she could say, then walk away. A mutual exchange of innocent compliments would be the extent of their association, nothing more.
But, where's the fun in that?
She wanted to enjoy another visual pass down his body. And would have, if his eyes hadn't held hers in such a way she was almost afraid to blink. This time though, her latent cop mind surfaced, reminding her to check for a wedding ring or evidence of one recently removed. She broke free of his stare, did just that, and discovered neither.
"You're single," she announced. "I like that in a man."
"Do you now?" The tone carried a hint of teasing, and maybe a little innuendo. He edged forward. "I'm glad."
The physical advance and subtle invitation pushed her bold actions to just this side of reckless. Her gaze remained on the spot below his belt buckle long enough to tease before taking a daring cruise up the length of his torso, across his broad shoulders and along his clean shaven neck to his face. Where an unmistakable awareness filled deep brown eyes. Full frontal, they were heavy lidded and deep. Some would consider his mouth sensuous, and his chin had just enough of a cleft to make him all the more appealing. Then he smiled. His teeth were as perfect as the rest of him.
Her disdain at the entire male population evaporated beneath the warmth of that smile. Soon, she'd counter with a killer smile of her own. But not just yet. She'd schmoozed enough suspects and reluctant witnesses in her day, still did, and knew when and how to turn on the charm.
The idea such a dazzling guy would show interest in her did great things for a self esteem which had been slightly abused of late. Best of all, he didn't have so much as a remote connection to her job. That alone came as a breath of fresh air.
"Hurry up, will ya, lady?" The same rude male sounded again. "Some of us have to get to work, ya know."
Her coffee shop hunk sidled closer. "Some people can be pretty ignorant."
"They can be, can't they?"
She had to tilt her head back to look up at him and found herself momentarily intimidated. Something she didn't suffer often and liked even less. This close, she caught the scent of fresh soap and pleasant after-shave. The small razor nick on his chin gave a hint of vulnerability to make her relax.
"May I take your order?"
He indicated the clerk behind her with a slight nod of his head. "I think you're next."
"Oh. Am I?"
She wasn't quite ready to relinquish her attention from such a handsome face and just-wouldn't-quit body. Slightly flustered, she turned around.
Now that her back was to him again, Chase Canfield continued his previous appraisal of the woman in front of him. A severe beige suit couldn't hide the lush body within. Her hips curved just enough to catch a man's attention — they'd certainly caught his — and make him look for more. The skirt, while in his opinion too long, followed those curves, tapering above well-shaped legs.
Her fitted jacket gently hugged a slim waist. As she lifted an arm to pay for her order, the jacket rose, giving him a chance to enjoy the full swell of her backside.
For the first time, what he had done on impulse that morning hit him square between the eyes. When he saw her on the street, his attraction had been immediate, and strong enough to make him follow her into this coffee shop. He shook his head in self deprecation. You spent way too much time undercover, my friend.
He'd considered approaching right away, to introduce himself, get her name or number, and maybe ask her out. Then didn't. Now was not the best time to act on personal feelings. Not with Monica and her latest husband breathing down his neck for yet another, and totally unnecessary, custody hearing. No way in hell would he let another man adopt his only child.
Which husband was this for Monica? Five — or was it six? Whatever the number, Chase was glad he'd never fallen into her trap. Especially when he reminded himself how Monica's motives were wholly self-serving, even where their daughter was concerned. Case in point, she claimed to be too busy to accompany Lisa on the upcoming class trip to Alaska. When Chase offered, because he loved spending time with his only child, Monica and her damned primary custody arrangement dictated otherwise. As usual.
He was always so wrapped up in doing what was right for Lisa, while trying to counter the things Monica was doing wrong, their father-daughter visitations had become almost tedious. He hated the cold legal term visitation with all its impersonal connotations, hated the way it dehumanized his relationship with his daughter and, in the most devious yet efficient way, robbed him of his rights as a parent.
Convincing Monica to allow his aunt to accompany Lisa on this trip had been a major victory. One he wasn't about to relinquish, even after Aunt Francine called to say a slight problem had come up. She hadn't said what, but quickly added that she had a solution. Best of all, through some miracle of persuasion, she'd cleared the new plan with Monica. Which meant he would accept it no questions asked. He wasn't about to put this particular parenting decision back into Monica's court. A smile caught him as he thought of his favorite aunt. The lady, who epitomized the words prim and proper, would be a perfect influence for Lisa.
Unlike the woman standing before him now. Women like her were made for fun. His single-guy kind of fun.
Except you're not really single, in the strictest sense, his rational side cut in. If I were, she'd be the first one on my list, he countered back.
Excerpted from "Honorable Intentions"
Copyright © 2009 Margo Hoornstra.
Excerpted by permission of The Wild Rose Press, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.